There are five levels of force an officer of the law can apply during their encounter with an individual, with level one being the least violent as there is no physical force involved. Each level serves as a step up on the use of force continuum chart and the higher an officer goes, the more force that is applied. When it comes to pepper spray, this falls under level four on the use of force continuum chart.
When a use of force from level four is applied in an effort to gain control over a situation, it is considered to be a less-lethal method. Aside from pepper spray, the use of a baton or taser would also be classified as a level four use of force. Now, it is important to understand that police officers should never apply a level of force that is excessive in nature. They should be starting with the lowest possible level and working their way up as they deem necessary.
Unfortunately, there are officers out policing who will attempt to subdue a suspect with pepper spray or by applying physical force with their body even when that suspect is complying or does not pose as a threat. If you or someone you know was pepper sprayed without an officer having a valid reason for doing so, you should speak with a police brutality attorney to find out what can be done to address the act of misconduct.
Can pepper spray cause injuries?
Although police agencies believe that pepper spray is a safe and effective method that can be used to subdue a violent or threatening suspect, it can actually cause a person to suffer injuries. Pepper spray actually contains an oil called oleoresin capsicum [Source: Medical News Today]. “Capsaicin is an inflammatory agent in the oil” which is the same chemical that adds the characteristic heat to chili peppers.” When a person is exposed to pepper spray, they are exposed to capsaicin “at a much higher concentration.”
Medical News Today highlights these are some of the physical effects that pepper spray can have on a person:
- A person’s eyes will close immediately when they come in contact with pepper spray.
- A person might “experience a “bubbling” or “boiling” sensation, followed by temporary blindness and eye pain.” This can last anywhere between 30 to 45 minutes as it depends on how strong the pepper spray is.
- Burning in the throat
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath
- They might have difficulty breathing or speaking.
In some cases, when a person is sprayed with pepper spray, “it can cause cyanosis, [which is] a bluish discoloration of the skin that indicates a lack of blood flow and oxygen.” Medical News Today says that “apnea and respiratory arrest may also occur.” The source also highlighted a study that revealed that some individuals who breathe in pepper spray might experience “acute hypertension, or a sudden increase in blood pressure” which puts them at risk of “stroke or heart attack.”
Can I sue for the injuries I suffered if I was pepper sprayed by an officer although I was complying?
If an officer pepper sprayed you and you believe the level of force was excessive, meaning it exceeded what an officer believed to be necessary given the circumstances, then you may have the grounds to file a police brutality lawsuit. Given that you suffered injuries, you might be entitled to recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
To find out if you have a case against an officer or police department and what it might be worth, contact USAttorneys.com. We can connect you with a police brutality attorney in your city who is qualified to provide you with the advice and guidance you might be needing right now.